October 2017

Oregon - Giving Us Ideas to Consider

 By Brian Keierleber, PE
       NACE President


One of the many rewards of serving as your NACE President is the honor of representing our national organization to our state affiliates.

In mid-October I attended the Fall Meeting of the Oregon Association of County Engineers and Surveyors. What a wonderful experience! I greatly appreciate their hospitality. I learn much myself at each of these conferences, and this was no exception.

One of the visible, unique aspects of this conference was they had no vendors present. Several years ago they decided to stop inviting them and focus more on direct education during sessions. 

Oregon recently received a funding increase that will be phased in over several years.Oregon is structured differently than what I've experienced with State Highways, County Roads, City Streets, Public Roads, and Private Roads. Their public roads are maintained by the adjacent landowners, but the county can maintain them if they so desire. When a funding increase occurs, many of the public road residents want improvements on their roads also.

Oregon has long been a leader in funding methods for their roadway system. For example, they have funding systems developed for charges based on vehicle miles traveled and they charge trucks based on tonnage miles. They even have fees for bicycles based on tire size and cost, a first in the nation, passed on the concept that all road users contribute to the funding. I realize they may not begin to cover the cost of the demands on the system placed by cyclists, but in areas it is an important aspect of reducing congestion and improving air quality. There is also a significant health improvement component and benefit to society.

The tonnage mileage fees for trucks was very intriguing to me. Under their 2017 law, the weight fee would shift from $16.38 cents per mile to an estimated $25.12 cents per mile by 2025.

Also while there, it was brought to my attention that NACE should have a group to focus on rock/gravel road maintenance. I agree, so we’ll have the discussion. As we're too aware, more of our counties are switching back to gravel to cut down on maintenance costs. There are many changes in the aspect of rock road maintenance that should be taught in addition to the basics.

An intriguing topic was presented by Bruce Johnson, ODOT State Bridge Engineer. He discussed the seismic retrofit of the bridges on the key routes. In many cases it was far more economical and practical to reroute traffic on to the county system and retrofit the county bridges. Details on funding were yet to be determined, but he acknowledged that many times it would be the appropriate use of tax dollars.

Also discussed was that funding in future Highway bills should include funding for the Federal Lands access programs. Many counties are required to maintain county roads that are surrounded by federally owned grounds, such as US Forest, BLM grounds, or military reservations. There are no provisions for taxing the ground, so some funding must come from the Federal Government. 

All of us tend to agree that equitable methods must be obtained. We are all in the same boat. If their end of the boat sinks ours will inevitably follow. None of us has sufficient funds but whether a small county or a large one, we all rely on each other. 

For my part, the Oregon engineers were subjected to one of my bridge presentations for an hour and a half. Casualties are yet to be determined.
  
I also attended the Illinois Association of County Engineers 103rd Meeting, held in Moline. Thanks to Jeff Blue who provided a concise summary of their program. I especially appreciate that it was closer for me to attend than many of the Iowa meetings we hold in Des Moines.

As always, I am thankful for the invitations from our state affiliates. And thanks to Todd Kinney, who attended the TACERA Annual Conference in San Antonio, Texas. I regret not being able to attend their conference as I have many ties down there with relatives.

Have a great day. Be Safe Out There!

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